Monday, April 22, 2019

Saved by the Law?

"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20).

We have arrived at Mount Sinai. Starting today, we shall take an excursion into the subject of the law of God.

Jesus taught that the Christian saved by grace alone is more moral than the moralists. In particular, Jesus said that our morality must exceed that of the Pharisees. If a Christian learns his morality from Judaism or any other source, he is not learning Christian morality. Bear in mind that Judaism, both in Jesus’ day and ours, involves a grave distortion of the ethics God gave to ancient Israel.

Moralists are legalists. The term “legalism” is used in several ways. The word is opposite to salvation by grace when used to infer that keeping the law achieves a certain merit by which a person obtains a divine reward. The Bible, however, teaches that no man ever does a good deed, for even if it is outwardly good it is still corrupted by hostility to God.

Although the Christian is saved apart from law-keeping, he is not saved from the duty of law-keeping. The Christian is saved by grace through faith alone and brings no merit to the table of salvation. Hence, he is grateful and willing to serve Christ by keeping His holy law. Justification is by faith alone, but not by faith that stands alone. Justifying faith is working faith. It pours out good works, but the works do not contribute one iota to justification.

In fact, the Christian is both commanded and empowered to do a better job of law-keeping than anyone else. Because the moralist seeks salvation through his works, he always softens the demands of God’s law to fit his own abilities and thus compromises God’s morality. Moreover, because the moralist does not have the power of the Holy Spirit he is unable to obey the law very well, even outwardly. 

Finally, even when the moralist seems to exceed the Christian in outward works he always falls infinitely short of the Christian as regards his inward attitude. Thus, only the Christian truly understands the demands of God’s law and only the Christian has the power to keep it to any significant degree.

In what specific ways in today’s passage does Jesus tell us our righteousness is to exceed that of the moralists? Do any of His statements bring you under conviction today? If so, make it a matter of prayer and reformation.

If you are interested in learning more about the law and Christianity, in particular, what your responsibility to the law is, check out my podcast Strengthened by Grace, episodes 80 and following.